Posts Tagged ‘New York street’

These building corner street signs are fading fast

January 25, 2013

I love spotting these on random New York corners. But I’ve never seen one designed like the sign carved into a brick walkup at Hudson Street and St. Luke’s Place, with house numbers in the mix.


East Harlem has lots of century-old tenements—and lots of corner carvings. Too bad “109th Street” was obliterated from this one at Third Avenue.


A corner sign in Chelsea features stately lettering. It’s at Ninth Avenue and 19th Street and is in bad shape, but still doing its job of letting passersby know where they are—at least in part.


An East Side farm gives way to lovely row houses

January 2, 2013

62ndstreettreadwell2Two centuries ago, a wealthy New Yorker named Adam Treadwell bought a 24-acre farm on Manhattan’s East Side, about where the East 60s are today.

When he died in 1852, his heirs inherited the property. Soon they began selling off small parcels to individual owners.

These new owners did something smart: they set up an agreement stipulating the height and width of the buildings they planned to put up, and they barred certain businesses from opening up there.

TreadwelldistrictTheir foresight leaves us with two breathtaking blocks mostly of four-story row houses built between 1868 to 1876, according to the document designating East 61st and 62nd Streets between Second and Third Avenues the Treadwell Farm Historic District.

The row houses were built in the French Second Empire and Italianate styles popular at the time.

“Today, the district is appreciated for the way it reveals the design aesthetic of the 1910s and 1920s,” explains the website for the Friends of the Treadwell Farm Historic District.


“During those years, most of the buildings were ‘modernized,’ i.e., stoops removed, and projecting detail stripped resulting in simplified elegance.”


There’s no river view or doormen standing by, but these two tree-lined blocks rank as among the loveliest in Manhattan, a tiny, little-known oasis of calm and beauty amid the crowds and traffic of East Midtown.

Take a peek inside one, recently for sale, via this Curbed listing. Price: just 7.9 million!

A photographer’s poetic, playful Lower East Side

January 2, 2013

Born in a Hester Street flat to Russian immigrant parents, Rebecca Lepkoff came of age during the Depression—and became a keen observer of street life in her Lower East Side neighborhood.


“I really enjoyed all the people and what they were doing. I was into loving the streets,” she told the Daily News in an interview last March. “Everyone was outside: the mothers with their baby carriages, and the men just hanging out. The apartment houses were too small to stay inside.”


A member of the New York Photo League, a photographer’s cooperative, Lepkoff gained a rep for her tender glimpses of mid-century life between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges: a world of El trains and corner stores, of pushcart vendors and laundry lines.


Her portraits of children entertaining themselves on front stairs and sidewalks capture something lost in contemporary New York: a freedom kids used to have to create and explore without being watched by adults.

“The kids played in the street,’” she told the Daily News. “They didn’t stay home. There weren’t many playgrounds. So they made up their own games, and they’d find sticks and whatever.”


Lepkoff still takes pictures, and her work is enjoying more notoriety, thanks to recent exhibits at the Tenement Museum and the Jewish Museum.

Through January 4, some of her work can be seen at the Lower East Side Jewish Conservatory‘s exhibit “On the Cusp of Change: The LES, 1935-1975.”

[Photos copyright Rebecca Lepkoff]

Genteel Fifth Avenue at the turn of the century

November 26, 2012

Could this really be Fifth Avenue in the 50s, today one of the most expensive stretches of retail in the world?

The street sign appears to read 52nd Street. That means the two mansions on the left belong to the Vanderbilt family, as does the French chateau-like mansion next door.

That’s the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 55th Street rising in the center of the postcard.

A rainy day in Murray Hill in 1928

November 19, 2012

This Martin Lewis etching captures the slick sidewalks and belching smoke on a gray and dreary stretch of the East 30s.

“The Thirty-fourth Street Armory at Park Avenue, now demolished, is shown in the print at right,” states Paul McCarron in The Prints of Martin Lewis. “It was a few blocks from Lewis’s studio at 145 East Thirty-Fourth Street.”

It’s the same armory depicted in Quarter of Nine, Saturday’s Children, a Martin Lewis etching from 1929.

What became of the chateau-like structure on the corner?

When western Canal Street had a “Suicide Slip”

September 20, 2012

Canal Street really was a canal back in the early 19th century; it carried filthy water from polluted Collect Pond, near Lafayette Street, and emptied it into the Hudson.

After the canal was filled in and made a road in 1820, the far western edge of newly named Canal Street served a more ghoulish purpose.

“The Street took its name naturally from the little stream which was called a canal,” writes Charles Hemstreet in his 1899 book Nooks and Corners of Old New York.

“The locality at the foot of the street has received the local title of “Suicide Slip” because of the number of persons in recent years who have ended their lives by jumping into Hudson River at that point.”

The Historical Guide to the City of New York also marks this as a suicide spot. “The small park at West and Canal Streets was once called Suicide Slip,” it states mysteriously.

New York’s skinny little holdout buildings

September 10, 2012

Meet the holdout buildings—small, slender structures owned by residents who refused to sell to a developer.

As a result, developers simply constructed taller, wider building around them, making these little homes look like dollhouses.

These in-between buildings are leftover remnants of an older New York, one not dominated by skyscrapers and towering loft buildings.

Often neglected and not in the best shape, they’re treasures hiding in plain site all over the city.

This Chelsea home, above, with the lovely shutters, is surrounded by two postwar apartment buildings. I wonder what it’s like to live there.

I have no idea when this drab little house went up on the Bowery. It looks like a placeholder between its two neighbors.

This itty bitty building on Lexington Avenue in the 50s sits between two giant office structures, and it looks like it predates both.

I imagine it was once part of a row of functional, not particularly distinctive brownstones, before this stretch of Midtown turned corporate.

Below is another teeny garage, probably a former stable, in Chelsea.

The ceiling is sinking in, and it looks long-neglected. But it’s hanging on, still part of the streetscape.

You can’t help but root for them, right? Check out more holdout buildings here.

When Sullivan Street had a “Murderers’ Row”

August 30, 2012

Wouldn’t it be great to travel back in time and poke around the city’s old alleys and courtyards, the remnants of pre-street grid Manhattan?

Murderer’s Row in today’s West Soho was one.

No trace of this colorfully named nook exists there, amid Sullivan’s tenements and Federal-style homes. Luckily Charles Hemstreet recalls it in his 1899 book Nooks & Corners of Old New York.

“‘Murderers’ Row’ has its start where Watts Street [the top street on the map at left] ends at Sullivan, midway of the Block between Grand and Broome Streets.

“It could not be identified by its name, for it is not a ‘row’ at all, merely an ill-smelling alley, an arcade extending through a block of battered tenements.

“After running half its course through the block, the alley is broken by an intersecting space between houses—a space that is taken up by push carts, barrels, tumble-down wooden balconies and lines of drying clothes.

“‘Murderers’ Row’ is celebrated in police annals as a crime centre. But the evil doers were driven out long years ago and the houses given over to Italians. . . .

“Constant complaints are made that the houses are hovels and the alley a breeding-place for disease.”

If you wander down to look for the intersection of Sullivan and Watts Streets, you won’t find it. When Sixth Avenue was extended to Tribeca in the 1920s, the corner was obliterated—along with several tiny blocks.

But the NYPL Digital Collection has a 1916 street map of the corner.

Right: Watts and Sixth Avenue near Sullivan, about where the characters of Murderers’ Row plied their trade.

“Night in New York” on a darkened street

August 20, 2012

This shadowy and mysterious Martin Lewis etching from 1932 presents a lone young woman dressed for a night on the town.

Is she on her way to a date or a party—or is she coming back alone, mourning another evening that didn’t quite pan out as she’d hoped?

A hospital moves to pastoral Morningside Heights

August 13, 2012

It’s only the early 1900s in this penny postcard of St. Luke’s Hospital on Amsterdam Avenue and 114th Street, probably no more than a decade after the hospital moved there in 1896 from its original home on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street.

Morningside Heights is practically the country: wide avenues, few pedestrians, and a peek at the Hudson River in the back of the facility.